An assistant to Ukraine’s top army commander was killed when a grenade ignited among birthday gifts he was given on Monday, Ukrainian officials said.
Maj. Hennadiy Chastyakov, 39, returned home with gifts from colleagues when his 13-year-old son picked up one of six grenades given to him in a box, the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine’s Central Region said in a statement Tuesday.
Chastyakov, who was an aide to Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, moved to take the explosive away from his son but in the process he pulled the ring, causing it to detonate inside his home near Kyiv.
Chastyakov died instantly in the blast. His son was seriously wounded and his 11-year-old daughter was slightly injured, authorities said, while sharing a photo on social media of what appears to be grenades scattered on a table.
A later search recovered two similar grenades from a colleague who had gifted Chastyakov the explosives, prosecutors said.
Maryana Reva, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s interior minister, told local media that it’s believed to have been a tragic accident.
“Based on the information gathered so far, we can assert that it was indeed an unfortunate accident, a result of careless handling of the ammunition,” she said, according to The New York Times.
This conclusion may change depending on evidence collected as part of an investigation, Reva added.
The grenades had been given in a gift bag with whisky and grenade-shaped glasses, a source told Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda, according to the BBC. A card included with the gifts reportedly read: “It’s hard to surprise you: That’s why I’m giving you combat grenades and a bottle of good whisky.”
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, seen during a September meeting with the secretary general of NATO, has been requesting additional military aid amid its ongoing war with Russia.
Zaluzhny praised Chastyakov in a statement as a friend and reliable aide to him since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He said he is survived by his wife and four children.
Zaluzhny recently spoke out saying his country has reached a stalemate in its war with Russia and that “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”
“In order for us to break this deadlock we need something new, like the gunpowder which the Chinese invented and which we are still using to kill each other,” he told The Economist.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Zaluzhny’s assessment, however, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that while many people are tired of war, Ukrainian forces “are still motivated more than any Russians.” He added that his country continues to need additional military resources, particularly for air defenses.
President Joe Biden has requested more than $100 billion for support to Ukraine, Israel and other allies, though Congress has so far been unable to agree on a financial package.